With the MLB Trade Deadline quickly approaching, rumors are starting to come out in quick order about who may or may not be on the market. For the Chicago Cubs, those pieces start with their starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Other players who the Cubs might be dangling based on their play so far this year are Emilio Bonifacio and Luis Valbuena. The Cubs might be able to move one or both position players and get a fairly decent return because of how well they have played this year. The problem with Bonifacio is that he was just placed on the disabled list with a right oblique strain. Because we are still in the middle of June, Bonifacio has time to heal and will have enough time to prove he is as valuable as he was before he went down with injury and before he fell back down to earth from an amazing start to the season. However, the Cubs may choose to keep both Bonifacio and Valbuena because they are valuable to the team in their current state. In particular, Luis Valbuena has proven to be one of the most productive infielders in the majors this year.
Obviously, the two biggest pieces on the trade block for the Cubs are Samardzija and Hammel; they are also the two most likely pieces to get moved. Even though the Cubs and their fans would much rather they keep at least Samardzija, there is a lot of interest in him from other teams and apparently the Cubs have already been in discussions for both pitchers. With the Cubs likely trading both in the next few weeks, I can only imagine the surplus of talent they will get in return when I remember that Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger brought back Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. With Hammel being better than Feldman (pitching better too), they should easily be able to bring back a much better return than the package of Feldman and Clevenger did, which was still a good return. Samardzija is also one of the best, if not THE best, pitchers on the block, and we anticipate that he should command a return even better than what Matt Garza brought back from Texas last year.
One of the good things about the second Wild Card is that there are vastly more teams close to contending. Unfortunately, the Cubs are in such a bad situation that even with the second Wild Card, they are so far out of contention that they are not serious contenders at the moment. However, with that second Wild card, more teams that will be in the bidding for pitching, the better the return. The hope is to get as many teams into a bidding war for both Samardzija and Hammel as possible to get the best possible return you can get.
A lot of fans are against trading anyone, specifically Samardzija and Hammel. They are against the trading of our best players because that will mean that the Cubs are going to be even worse. I am all for keeping one or both of them, but I completely understand trading them away for future talent. In the case of Hammel, that is exactly what he was signed for. The Cubs gave him a chance to prove to the baseball world that he was healthy and to re-build some of his value so he could be flipped mid-season at the trade deadline. Fans knew this about him going into the season so this should not be a surprise. With him pitching as well as he has this year, the fans have changed their mind and want to keep him after all. Just like they did with Paul Maholm and Feldman, and they will trade Hammel for the best possible return they can get. Considering the return they got for both of them, I cannot wait to see what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are able to get for him.
With the probable trade of Samardzija in the not too distant future, Cub fans are also upset. This one I find a little funny as not too long ago Samardzija was not too popular. When he was struggling in the bullpen, most Cub fans wanted nothing to do with him. Now that he has been moved into the starting rotation and is pitching well, a majority of fans have fallen in love with him. Most fans want to keep him on the North Side for his entire career, though there are several fans who actually do want him traded.
The fans that want him traded are mixed into two camps though. Some of them feel that Samardzija is vastly over-rated and is very inconsistent. This comes after he has had a couple of shaky outings recently after nearly two months of some of the most dominating pitching I have seen out of a Cubs pitcher in my life time. They want him traded to get his “inconsistency” off of the Cubs roster and replaced with younger talent who might actually be able to help the Cubs win something in the near future. The other group wants the Cubs to trade him so he actually has a chance to win something, which is something they feel he is unable to do in Chicago; at least with the Cubs.
With the trade deadline growing ever closer, enjoy these Cubs while you can. You never know when the first one will be shipped off.
UPDATE 6/15 10:04 AM: According to Bob Nightengale (via MLBTR), there are lots of teams interested in Jeff Samardzija, including the San Francisco Giants…
Other clubs in the picture include the Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Red Sox, and Blue Jays.
As the rumors become more concrete we’ll start figuring out which prospects are likely to change hands. Happy Father’s Day!